Skye Moench breaks down her 4th-place finish at Ironman World Championships

Skye Moench on not negotiating with herself on her way to a career result

An Ironman World Championships unlike any other produced racing to match in front of a red rock backdrop. And during a day of incredible performances, Skye Moench stood out, taking fourth place in her Ironman World Championships debut and capping a journey that began nearly three years ago when her planned 2019 trip to Kona was derailed due to a bad crash. 

The 2021 Ironman World Championships were postponed to 2022, and moved to St. George, Utah, from their traditional site in Kona, Hawaii. The venue change meant that the Salt Lake City native was able to race in her home state, and she did not disappoint the local fans, turning in a career result.

“It’s always nice when you don’t have to fly your bike somewhere,” Moench said after the race. “Also just being super familiar with the course, and having so much support on course either from local people racing or all the friends and family and people that I’ve met in the tri community in Utah. There were so many people here to support me, so that was really special.”

Skye Moench celebrating her finish with her home state fans.

Moench emerged from the swim in an elite chase group roughly 4:15 behind leader Haley Chura. She quickly made up ground on the bike in a group led by eventual winner Daniela Ryf. By mile 25, Moench was among the leaders on the course. 

The race was arguably defined by a bike course that featured roughly 7,400 feet of climbing. Ryf put in a phenomenal effort to create gaps, and held a 5:22 lead over Moench, who was fourth on the road, at the start of the first of two major climbs. At the end of 112 miles of biking, Moench sat fifth, 15:58 off the lead, but she would soon show that she paced herself well.

“The bike was honestly a bit of a slog for me,” Moench said. “But I was really looking forward to getting to the marathon because I knew, even though I’d been racing for six hours, that by the time I got to the marathon it’d be a fresh start, because it’s a new discipline, and some new muscles being used.”

I have to keep in perspective where I've come from. Seven years ago, I was still pretty much a full-time CPA.

- Skye Moench

Moench started the final leg roughly six minutes behind Lisa Norden, who was in third, and gradually ate into the gap. Within 10 miles of the finish line, she passed Norden for good, and held on to her place, finishing 21 minutes behind Ryf and eight minutes out of third. A big key to her success, Moench said, was not “negotiating with herself” and accepting any excuse to give less than her best effort. 

“I could have said on the run, ‘Oh, you know what? fifth is good enough. I don’t need to try to push harder to catch anyone. I’ve got a gap,'” Moench said. “You can start negotiating with yourself if you’re in pain and it’s hurting and it’s hard, because you want to make it easier.”

The result solidified Moench as one of the best and most consistent all-around talents in triathlon. The evidence was already strong, with an Ironman 70.3 win and three full-length Ironman podiums last year, including a win in Chattanooga that set an American record. One of the biggest keys to her success is an unrivaled enthusiasm for a sport that is as grueling as they come.

Skye chewing through the roads in Utah.

Moench had to overcome a lot to get to this point, and her journey is far from over. 

“Everyone wants to win World Championships, but there’s only one winner and it’s important to be proud of ourselves,” Moench said. “I have to keep in perspective where I’ve come from. Seven years ago, I was still pretty much a full-time CPA. Seven years ago is when I started my journey to pursuing high level professional triathlon. So yeah, I’m pretty proud of how far I’ve come in my first World Championship.”

Sam Long capping an incredible effort after a difficult week.

Sam Long takes 15th after pre-race car crash

Sam Long entered St. George among the pre-race favorites in the men’s race. By that standard, you might think he’s disappointed by a 15th-place finish. But given the circumstances, he has every right to be proud of his effort.

“Plans changed after I got hit by a car,” Long wrote on Instagram after the race. “I am lucky not to be in the hospital. It was a fight and I had to do everything to make it to the start line. … I was extremely happy to finish yesterday; because here is the thing, it was my way of moving past the crash. There is no justice in this crime and this was my only way to make peace.”

Long gritted through the swim and a significant portion of the bike to remain among the race leaders. He estimated that roughly two hours into the bike, his hip started giving him trouble, and he slipped off his pace, but he still managed to finish the leg within the top 10 at 6:16 back from the lead.

I am lucky not to be in the hospital. It was a fight and I had to do everything to make it to the start line.

- Sam Long

It was a hard day after a hard week for Long, but he was upbeat after the race.

“Part of this was downplaying my crash so that I could convince myself mentally,” Long said. “It’s of course a hard experience as I truly committed and dedicated myself to a single race performance for the first time in my life … but sometimes tragedy hits.”

Long is one of the most exciting young triathletes in the world, and he has plenty more big goals for 2022, including getting back to smashing long distances on his Speed Concept. One thing is for certain: Long will be ready for his next challenge.